Come to Order: Lists can help you gain control

By Sue Becker | Bugle Columnist

Get the oil changed, plan dinner party, write thank you notes – these are the items on my to-do list for today. And I mean a physical list, not just some ideas floating around in my head.  Why do I need an actual list for only three things?

Having a physical list prevents me from forgetting things, reminds me of what to focus on and frees me from the stress of having to remember. A physical list is different from having it in my head – it’s like a best friend who gently reminds me what and when I should be working on things to keep me out of trouble. It puts me in control of my day, and it can do the same for you.  Whether you prefer your lists in handwritten (my personal preference) or electronic form, here are some of my favorite lists that you may want to create for yourself:

master to-do List—This is where I capture things I have to do that I’m not quite sure when I’ll do. For example, I want to research buying a new tree for my backyard. I could just choose a date to do it and jot it down in my planner. However, I’m not quite sure when I’ll do it. So rather than trusting that I’ll remember to do it at some point, I’ve added it to my master to-do list. I review this list once a week and schedule things once I know when I’ll do them.

weekly to-do  List—My weekly to-do list contains things I want to remember to do every week: water the houseplants, plan next week’s meals, prepare for next week’s clients, etc.

daily to-do list—I have two kinds of daily to-do lists; one is for today’s unique tasks – three to five things I want to get done today that I write in my planner. I also have a daily list of recurring tasks to do each day: water outdoor flowers, thaw tomorrow’s dinner, check my social media sites, etc. Although I remember to do most of these things without looking at the list, having them written down keeps items from being forgotten (and keeps my flowers alive).

shopping lists—I have running lists for a variety of stores that I add to whenever I think of something I need: the grocery store, general merchandise store, home improvement store and clothing store. Listing items by store simplifies shopping and help prevent me from forgetting to get something while at the store.

Discuss List—I talk by phone once a week with my son who lives out of state. Throughout the week I often think of things I want to mention to him during our call – they’re not important enough to call about right away and also aren’t worthy of the time it would take to send a text or email.

My list lets me hang up from our weekly calls not regretting that I forgot to mention something. You might have a similar list for collecting questions you want to ask the doctor on your next visit, questions for your next parent-teacher conference, etc.

I’d love to hear what lists you use to help you stay on top of things.

Sue Becker is a Certified Professional Organizer in Chronic Disorganization who helps individuals and businesses discover the simplicity, harmony, and freedom of being organized and productive. She also speaks to companies and organizations about how to get organized and make the most of their time. Sue can be reached at or 630-373-7400.

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